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With program interest at an all-time high for Texas Basketball I decided to reach out to Jim Root from the Three Man Weave podcast to get a detailed national perspective on the future of Texas Hoops.
I’ve been a long time listener of Jim’s podcast, have read conference previews on Three-Man-Weave.com, and tailed their gambling plays for years and can easily say that Jim, Matt, and Ky are some of the most informed college basketball media members you’ll ever find.
If you haven’t read their work, their preview of the Horns from last year or Jim’s piece on basketball budgets across CBB should provide some insight into the crew as writers. Especially when you consider that the three of them write detailed previews for all 347 teams in college basketball every season. The Three Man Weave podcast has grown from a labor of love for Jim, Matt, and Ky to now being one of the most successful college basketball podcasts and leading to opportunities to write for The Action Network, Sports Bet Review, FTN, and VSiN.
Their last two podcasts mention the Chris Beard hire and more recently the poaching of Chris Ogden, Jerrance Howard, and Rodney Terry along with news and opinions across the CBB landscape.
To put it in terms we can all understand Jim follows CBB with the same vigor that @wethorn follows swimming or @brownrecluse follows T&F. So if you get mad at anything in the interview I’ll defend Three Man Weave with the same vigor that @Zona Horn and @CaliHorniaBoy show when somebody questions the competition level in their respective HSFB states.
Inside Texas: What are your lasting takeaways from the Shaka Smart era at Texas?
Jim Root: It always just kind of felt like Shaka was put between the way he wanted to play versus what Texas presented as an opportunity. He won with pressure and “havoc” at VCU and now he has these 5-star centers that want to play for him and I assume you have this pressure to recruit that caliber of player. So you end up with these highly rated recruits and “one and done” guys that don’t fit his style and he’s trapped because he doesn’t adapt. Clearly it didn’t work out well so it’s a justifiable split, Shaka will do better at Marquette than he did at Texas and I think Texas is going to be much better under Beard.
IT: We’re in lockstep on Will Baker’s questionable fit and development plan under Shaka. Do you think there could be any chance of a repeat with Beard where some of the higher rated players don’t take to the no-middle, packline defense?
JR: Not at all, Beard has had success with one and done and highly rated guys. I think his style is very sustainable at the power conference level.
IT: I know you’ve talked at length about it on the last couple of podcasts, but what are your main takeaways now that Chris Beard is at Texas?
JR: With how he’s recruited in the past, the superstar staff they’ve put together, and now the massive Texas stage he’s on, I think he’s going to be terrific and I have no qualms about this hire. I thought he would stay at Tech, but now that he’s at Texas I’m finally wrapping my head around the fact that this guy, who I consider to be a top 5 coach in America, now has unlimited resources to work with. Maybe it doesn’t happen right away but I think he will win big at Texas and win big for a long time.
IT: KenPom Adjusted Offense under Beard at Tech peaked at 25th in the country and most years was around 45th out of 347 programs. What do you think about Chris Beard’s offensive system?
JR: So I don’t think he’ll be sending out top five offenses, but I do think the talent bump that he’ll get at Texas is going to solve a lot of those issues. It’s probably not going to be glowing or beautiful like with Gonzaga where every possession is like an artform, but with the defense they’ll have I believe you’re likely going to see top 30ish offenses most years once he gets established as a program. He’s almost too good not to, I mean he had a top 100 offense in his first year at Arkansas-Little Rock. I don’t think he’s a bad offensive coach at all but the ceiling might not be super high.
IT: There is a small contingent of the Texas fanbase that do not like the hire or initially opposed it because they don’t like Beard’s style of play. Do you buy those complaints at all?
JR: People come to games to watch their team win. Winning breeds loyalty more than fun up and down the court basketball. I mean look at UCLA, Steve Alford was playing up and down the court and he got canned while Mick Cronin just took them to the Final Four with his style and everybody loves him. Virginia plays the slowest style in the game but their fans go absolutely nuts when they force a shot clock violation on defense. You adapt to the style of your head coach when you’re winning and I think that’s exactly what’s going to happen for Chris Beard at Texas.
IT: What are your thoughts on the likely core that returns to Texas?
JR: I love (Andrew) Jones, I think he’s going to continue to get better and better. I mean, he was a legitimate pro prospect before his cancer diagnosis. He’s crazy athletic and will keep getting better. I have to be objective with Ramey which is hard because he’s a Webster Groves kid and I always wanted him to end up at Mizzou (where Jim is an alum). I thought this past season he was impressive, the two point percentage was ugly but he was able to score from three and make tough shots that he hasn’t been able to make in the past. We obviously didn’t get to see Febres a ton but I think five two point attempts and 51 attempts from three pretty much sums up his game. I think Beard will use Febres properly, in general I think one of Beard’s strengths is his ability to put players in the right role. With Brock Cunningham he is just such a good fit for Beard’s culture, it would be nice if he was able to make some shots but I don’t think he will be asked to play 20+ minutes.
IT: The Texas roster is in flux and likely will need 4-5 contributors from the transfer portal for this upcoming year. Do you think Texas could be at a disadvantage since the school is fairly tough to get into and overall how do you see Chris Beard constructing this roster from the portal?
JR: I could definitely see guys not getting into school being a roadbump, sometimes I forget that is a hurdle you have to clear. Overall though because of the way the portal is evolving, the allure of Texas, and the fact that Beard has won literally everywhere leads me to believe he’ll get solid players. The late start hurts and that’s why I’ll likely not be mega high on Texas in year one, but he could still surprise me and there are still a ton of good players available. I have a pretty detailed portal tracker and see at least 100 guys I have graded as at least power conference role players. He’ll have success with transfers in the future, let’s also not forget that he has Jerrence Howard, Ogden, Terry, and Maligi to work the portal as well.
IT: I’d love to get your evaluations on some of the players in the portal that have been reported by Inside Texas to have interest in the Longhorns, and I think you’re the most qualified person in the world for this task considering your knowledge of all 347 teams. First off what do you think of Northwestern F Miller Kopp who is from the Houston area?
JR: Kopp is very solid. Anybody you take out of Northwestern is going to immediately be a better player at their next destination, as you know I’m not very high on the coaching situation there. Kopp isn’t necessarily efficient offensively, but the size and versatility along with his ability to hit shots and remain engaged defensively should spell well under Beard. Obviously with the roster being bare right now I think Kopp is a guy that you could plug in as a starter. Something I actually mentioned when Mac McClung committed to Texas Tech was that I truly believe that every transfer Chris Beard gets is going to be a better player under his watch. With Kopp coming from a coaching staff I don’t trust that gets amplified, I believe he’d be a very solid pickup.
(This conversation was at 1:30 p.m. Eastern and Devin Askew proceeded to commit to Texas 45 minutes after we got off the phone)
IT: The latest 3MW pod was not kind to Kentucky G Devin Askew, I don’t want you to have to repeat yourself too much but do you think he could turn the corner at a new school? It seems like this might be a flexing opportunity for Beard to help Askew reach his potential.
JR: Yeah it is pretty safe to say that he was unequivocally terrible for Kentucky. I watched the Final Four games with a Kentucky fan that lives in Lexington and he wasn’t sure if there was a worse player that's gotten that extensive amount of minutes for Kentucky… so that’s obviously not great. But the one caveat I’ve got to mention is that every reclassified point guard that moves up a year is awful for a year. Derrick Thornton at Duke, Khristian Lander at Indiana, even Ashton Hagens wasn’t good his first year at Kentucky and became a monster in year two. It’s just such a tough position to jump up and play right away and that’s compounded by being a year younger. It would be a worthwhile reclamation project considering his talent, but I wouldn’t have sky high expectations.
IT: After combining for 58 points against Kansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament the Groves brothers from Eastern Washington have a special place in Texas fan’s hearts. What are your evaluations of those two?
JR: Tanner is an absolute stud. He was the Big Sky Player of the Year and can score inside and out along with his ability to run the offense from the high post. The step up in competition to the Big 12 will be difficult but we just saw him get whatever he wanted against Kansas. I think he is certainly a great piece worth adding. His brother Jacob is a fine player, however I’m not sure he’s a needle mover in the Big 12. If he can knock down shots like he did against Kansas that would be great but he didn’t really do that on a consistent basis throughout the season. However if you need to take Jacob to get Tanner it’s completely worth it.
IT: I texted my college basketball GroupMe that Tanner Groves is who Dylan Osetkowski thought he was. A key piece missing for the roster is the rim protecting five. Do you think David Muoka from Lamar could fit that role?
JR: Muoka right now would be a pretty awful offensive player in the Big 12, but he’s an elite shot blocker and if Beard could get him plugged into the defensive system and just finish dunks I think it might be worth the gamble. I’m not sure how much value an up transfer from the Southland can provide considering his game is really only rim protecting and defensive rebounding, but considering the outlook of the Texas bigs it’s probably a risk worth taking.
(Since this conversation Timmy Allen has also committed #AGNB)
IT: Lastly for potential transfer candidates we have All Pac 12 first teamer Timmy Allen from Utah.
JR: Allen is kind of an unconventional scorer, he’s very mid-range and free throw reliant and has an UGLY shooting form. However he’s incredibly talented and athletic and seems to always get the job done. This would be a really nice addition.
IT: That’s all I have for Texas specific questions but while I have you I was curious who some of your favorite small school programs are? I know Furman is mentioned a ton on the pod.
JR: Furman is a great one. They space the floor and run a ton of five out. We had their coach Bob Richey on our podcast and he said “if you can’t shoot we don’t recruit” and I just love that. I loved Wofford when Mike Young was there, another one would probably be UT-Chattanooga. They have great guards and their coach is off the Bo Ryan coaching tree so they run a ton of swing offense.
IT: Who is a mid-major coach in 5-10 years you’re most confident will be successful at a power program?
JR: That’s a great question. I think Richey is going to be a star eventually and I tried to pitch him on Mizzou after our conversation which he laughed off of course. (jokingly) Can I say Rick Pitino? *uproarious laughter from me* Another name to keep an eye on would be Niko Medved at Colorado State.
IT: Thank you so much for the time Jim, a ton of great info in here and I’m sure all of the folks at Inside Texas are going to love reading an unbiased national reporter’s optimism for where the program is headed.
JR: Perfect, thanks a lot Wabash have a good one.